Tips for managing health and wellbeing in the workforce during coronavirus
Published: March 24 2020
The outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) has impacted people in varying ways on an international scale. It’s understandable that people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.
While it’s important to stay up to date with changing government guidelines, priority should also be given to the health and wellbeing of the workforce during these challenging times.
Employers: what you can do
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
If you have an EAP or other wellbeing resource, remind your staff to make use of it if they are need support. Also, consider providing virtual counselling services for those that are feeling particularly anxious.
Communicate regularly with your staff to keep them not only informed of any updates within the workplace but also to ask them how they are getting along. Invite them to raise any concerns. Use various methods such as phone calls, emails, and video or audio conferencing.
This is also a good way of checking staff workload and stress levels and discussing the support you could provide them such as distributing work and being flexible with deadlines. If you are thinking of distributing work, then ensure you take into consideration other staff members’ workload too.
Ensure that line managers are regularly informed and aware of any contingency plans so that they can provide guidance and reassure staff.
Make sure you have online resources such as your staff intranet and training tools available as readily as possible. When making information regarding the pandemic available to staff, then ensure it’s from reliable sources such as Public Health England, World Health Organisation, and other government websites such as www.gov.uk, to ensure accuracy.
In addition to working from home, consider applying flexibility to staff working patterns as many are likely to have children at home due to school closures or might be looking after dependants who are unwell.
Advice for employees
Try to follow your ordinary routine as much as possible. Get up at the same time as normal, follow your usual daily tasks, and go to bed at your usual time. It may help to set alarms to remind you of your new schedule.
Plan your day
Plan how you will spend your day. It might help to write this down on paper and put it on the wall. Find tasks to break up your day and if, where possible, change your environment for different activities.
Take care of your body
Taking care of your physical health can improve how you feel. Stay well rested, eat balanced meals and keep active as much as possible. If you feel able to, activities like stretching, yoga or meditating can help relieve stress.
Make use of modern technology. Plan to connect with family, friends and colleagues through various methods such as phone calls, texts, social media and video conferencing.
Stay informed about the situation via reliable sources, but it may be beneficial to limit your news and social media intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Set strict limits to your work to give you time to unwind. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your manager or HR.
Focus on positives
Try not to project too far into the future. Remember that these are temporary measures and you are not alone.
Undoubtedly, these are challenging times for everyone but such times can bring communities together. We must not forget that these are temporary measures and by supporting each other, we will get through this.
Top 5 coronavirus FAQs for employers
1. What should I do if I have an employee who is showing symptoms of coronavirus?
As an employer, you will need to consider the health and safety of all your staff. For any employees showing symptoms, you should advise them to:
- Not to attend work
- Self-isolate in accordance with the Government’s guidance
- Seek advice from NHS 111 if their condition worsens or does not improve after seven days
- If possible, avoid going to their GP or a hospital to prevent the spread of the infection
We would also advise that you keep in regular contact to see how they are doing throughout the self-isolation period.
2. What steps should I take within the workplace if an employee shows symptoms of coronavirus?
After advising the employee in question to not attend work and self-isolate in accordance with the Government guidance, there is no current requirement to close the workplace, but we recommend you consider the following:
- Carry out a deep-clean
- You could communicate this to other employees, although there is not legal obligation to do so, however, ensure details are not revealed without the individual’s consent
- Support other alternatives to being at work for employees to minimise risk of spread, such as home working (this is being strongly encouraged by the government and everyone who can work from home should do so), working at another premises or temporary lay-off (including furlough leave – although advice will need to be obtain about implementation)
3. What should I do if I have an employee who has had contact with somebody with symptoms of coronavirus?
You should do the following:
- Advise the employee not to attend work
- Advise them to self-isolate in accordance with the Government’s guidance
- Keep in regular contact to see how they are doing
- Consider other alternatives to taking sick leave such as home working or taking annual leave
4. What should I do if I have employees with children whose schools have closed?
As schools are closed indefinitely; you could consider the following:
- As a short-term solution, consider the option of employees taking dependants’ leave, which would be unpaid
- Consider other alternatives such as annual leave, home working or a change in working pattern
- As a last resort ask the employee to take unpaid leave
5. What should I do if I have employee who is worried about the situation and refuses to come to work?
During these circumstances, employers should try take a sensitive approach. You could consider the following:
- Have a discussion with the employee regarding the situation to consider other alternatives such as home working (some employees may be forced to self-isolate in accordance with Government advice)
- Be more mindful that some employees may be more vulnerable, such as those with an underlying condition, pregnant or even a mental health condition
- If the employee is healthy and shows no signs of having coronavirus then do not have to pay them. Or you could ask them to take annual leave
- As a last resort (and in appropriate circumstances) you may consider this absence as unauthorised and take disciplinary action. You will need to take advice if this is the course of action you intend to take
If you require any assistance in managing your staff or other HR matters during the pandemic, then please get in touch.
These FAQs were published and up to date as of 26 March 2020.
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